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journalist, lawyer, politician, essayist, and Egypt’s most influential historian in the modern era, was a self-trained historian who forged, from scratch, a much-needed historical understanding in a highly nationalized era. The core of his work was comprised of a monumental historical corpus that offered a bird’s eye view of Egypt’s entire modern history. Written between 1929 and 1959, this work was instrumental in setting the basic parameters of modern historical understanding, for it answered basic questions such as where modern history began and accounted for the forces that propelled it.

Al-Rafiʿi was born in Cairo in 1889, to a middle-class Muslim family with strong connections to al-Azhar the leading academy in the Islamic world He belonged to the first urban generation to evince interest in modern education while simultaneously striving to maintain their Islamic culture Many of them were attracted to the study of law which provided ...